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Herman Caicedo was one of the trainers at Tiger Tail Gym who would also show up at cock's crow, often to the same locked doors. He and Purlett started talking about their frustrations; they brought their concerns to Cypress. Warriors Gym was his solution. The complete overhaul began in late 1999. Cypress won't comment on the cost, but the results are impressive: new wiring, more windows, mirrors, speed bags, double-bladder speed bags, heavy bags, double-end bags, an assortment of different gloves, headgear, free weights, and of course the two sparring rings. He split the levels of the gym as well. The upstairs is for weight training and paying customers who want to learn to fight. The downstairs is for highly skilled amateurs and professional boxers.
"There's a boxing scene locally that keeps things going," Caicedo says, "but nothing megastar. What we're trying to do is put something together that will raise the roof of the boxing world. People fall in love with a local hero. Well, we've got three between Hollywood and West Palm Beach in Andre Purlett, Shannon Briggs, and Michael Moorer. And what starts the ball rolling is the gym. There's not going to be a gym in the country that can compare to this one."
Ismael Kone finishes his work with Caicedo; now it's the contender's turn. Purlett changes into a tank top, yellow mesh shorts, his old-school Air Jordans and a pair of new black boxing gloves. He gets in the ring and begins shadowboxing. "Dre," as he's called, has a strict training regimen. One day he does ring and mitt work, going hard for five hours or more. The next day he heads to the University of Miami to work with Hurricanes track coach Mike Ward on his speed and endurance. Ward says without hesitation that his scholarship sprinters couldn't do the workout that the 27-year-old fighter does. The following day, Purlett works on his brute strength with coach Greg Pierre in the weight room at L.A. Fitness in Fort Lauderdale. Frequently an audience gathers to watch him warm up with 300 pounds on the bench. Then he squats 500 pounds. A small child could learn to count by studying the stringy muscles in his calves and thighs.
Every couple of weeks, he spars. A boxer doesn't want to spar too often; too much ring work could make him peak too soon, and besides, there's no point in taking punches when he doesn't have a fight coming up. When it comes to sparring partners, a fighter wants to work with somebody good enough to bring out his best but not so good as to show him up and wreck his confidence before the big fight.
Purlett recently returned from Las Vegas, where he was scheduled to spar with Lennox Lewis. Lewis was preparing for what became his greatest defeat at the hands of Hasim Rahman. Purlett flew to the desert, but once he got there, Lewis wouldn't fight him; he always had an excuse. "Both he and his trainer kept ducking Purlett, saying he was too small and he wasn't ready for a monster like Lewis," Caicedo says. Lewis did spar with Lamon Brewster; Caicedo says Brewster made the champ look bad. And though Lewis didn't get in the ring with Purlett, Caicedo's charge lit Brewster up. Many critics have said that Lewis lost to Rahman because he didn't train hard enough.
Back in Hollywood, Robinson steps into the ring with his Everlast focus mitts to make sure Purlett doesn't make the same mistake.
"Come on now. Chin down," Robinson yells. "Chin down more!"
Caicedo, now watching from ringside, adds his two cents. "Get your damn chin down!" Purlett turns his head to look at Caicedo. "Don't watch me!" Caicedo yells above the workmen, causing them to stop what they're doing and observe the commotion. "What the hell are you watching me for? Watch him! Dead stare, no matter what I say!"
This is how a trainer molds a champion. He doesn't coddle him, no matter how great he is. The circus training camp is merely a memory of a different era. The dingy, damp, dungeonesque gyms where coaches would puff cigars at ringside while Mob bosses surveyed their meal tickets are long gone. This gym is different. Warriors Boxing Gym is plush, offering all the best amenities a boxer could hope for. Roaches aren't crawling from the walls, and the metal spit buckets aren't rusty. This is a business. And if Purlett trains right, it will be a big business.
Andre Purlett has 30 wins and no losses, with 27 of his wins by knockout. With a record like that, there's no question he should be fighting the biggest names the heavyweight division has to offer. But he's not. Yet.
A few months ago, one of Don King's people approached Purlett with a contract, promising him all kinds of shots at various top names and even tempting him with a fight against Larry Donald right out of the gate. Donald is currently preparing to fight Kirk Johnson July 7 for a shot at the World Boxing Association title: The WBA has declared that the survivor of that bout is a mandatory challenger to the winner of the bout between Evander Holyfield and current champion John Ruiz, set for August in Beijing, China.